The collection of one of Ireland’s most important families of the last century will be offered for sale at Sotheby’s in London on 27 September 2017.
The collection of one of Ireland’s most important families of the last century will be offered for sale at Sotheby’s in London on 27 September 2017. Illuminating the private world of the Yeats family, the auction will comprise literary material, paintings, drawings and the personal effects of artist John Butler Yeats and his four children: poet W.B, embroidery designer Lily, printing press pioneer Lolly, and artist Jack.
The sale will not only cast new light on the artistic development of these important figures, but also reveal a little of what life was like inside the Yeats family home. Alongside significant paintings, letters and drawings are unseen family sketch books, a family scrapbook, illustrated ‘scribbling’ diaries, photographs, hand-decorated furniture, Jack’s model boats, personalised silver, a top hat, a hand-painted trunk, and the family dining table.
With over 220 lots in total, estimates in the sale start at £80–120 (€100–150) for W.B.’s retractable telescope, and go up to £250,000–350,000 (€281,000–394,000) for the star lot: over 130 letters between W.B. and his life-long friend and first lover, Olivia Shakespear. Highlights from the collection will be unveiled for the first time in a public exhibition at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin from 14–16 September, ahead of an exhibition in London from 22–26 September (please see further details in notes to editors). The majority of artworks in the collection have not been seen in public for over 30 years, and the personal effects have never been exhibited before.
Jack Butler Yeats: ‘The Runaway Horse’, oil on board. (Estimate: £150,000-250,000 /€169,000-281,000)
The collection has been cared for by the descendants of W.B. Yeats in the family home near Dublin for over 75 years. For three generations, the family has provided a huge wealth of material to the Irish nation, including last year’s donation to the National Library of Ireland of W.B. Yeats’s Nobel Prize medal, valued at €1.5 million. Ahead of Sotheby’s sale, Ireland’s national institutions were given the opportunity to acquire any of the items in the collection. Consequently, the National Library has made private purchases of a number of items, including correspondence between W.B. Yeats and James Joyce, the ‘Dream Diary’ of W.B. Yeats’s wife George, and the Yeats family library. The Art & Industrial Division of the National Museum of Ireland, following inspections of the Yeats Collection in March and April 2017 also acquired seven works (including a walnut reading/writing table owned and used by WB Yeats, WB Yeats’ homemade series of ‘occult’ artefacts, his series of Japanese Noh theatre masks and a silver box containing 8 coins, inscribed SAORSTÁT ÉIREANN. PRESENTED BY THE MINISTER FOR FINANCE TO W.B. YEATS ESQ. A MEMBER OF THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON DESIGNS FOR THE COINAGE, 1928.) for the national collection. The acquisitions by both institutions were made possible by the generous financial support of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
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